I needed some Pain Cream the other day. If you ask someone for Pain Cream, they’ll assume you want some unguent that relieves discomfort, right? If you asked for Pleasure Cream, they wouldn’t think you wanted something that took away pleasant sensations. The default is anti-pain. But some pain cream is literally painful - the icy-hot stuff seems to believe that if the sensations it produces are brash enough, you’ll forget about the original complaint. That’s what I like, because it gets in your eyes and makes you wince and weep and forget all about the fact that your forearm is on fire from 25 years of mousing.
It was an errands night. It was also a Saturday, and I know that sounds pathetic. But Wife was playing tennis, and I’d been working on a website all afternoon. Needed to get out and get around and see things and converse. It ended up being the sort of jaunt where you realize you have all the time in the world and care nothing for the disposition of the day. Went to three places looking for paper lunch bags in the Large size, for example. These are necessary for lunch, and for making popcorn. (Don’t ask.) (Okay, you asked. I put kernels and oil in a paper bag and make popcorn in the microwave. There. Happy?) I went to Traders Joe for a few things, paid with my watch because I am a Connected Technological Modern, then went next door to Infinite Spirits and discovered I’d forgotten my wallet at home.
The clerk said she could suspend my transaction, if I wished to return. I did. Back home and back to the store in 23 minutes. I noted that my wife, who was heading out the door, asked how I’d bought something at Traders Joe without my wallet, and I told the clerk I should’ve said I stole it all, because women like a rebel. What was interesting to me was the nature of the interchange - when I had shown up the first time she was all business, as one would expect, beeping and bagging, but now we somehow had a shared history that predated the current exchange, and we’re laughing like old friends.
Went to Lunds. They had a sale: $1.99 on Coke 12-packs. Well! I bought one, the new Orange-Vanilla Dreamsicle flavor. LIMIT ONE PER DAY said a handwritten sign, because obviously people had been loading up. Drove south, decided I would check the other Lunds for the large paper bags. They had them! I also picked up another 12-pack, and I was thinking: this goes against the rules. I wonder if I can get away with this.
On the way out I noticed that the receipt did not give me the sale price; I went back. A manager asked: did you buy one earlier today?
“I did!” I said. “I’m sorry! I wasn’t trying to get away with anything. Well I guess I was.”
“The computer knows everything,” she said. She took the charge off my card.
Went to CVS for pain cream.
It was odd. There was no one in the store. There was no one at the counter. It seemed shabby, in need of a vacuum. I walked back to the Pain department, and found it understocked. You couldn’t tell what they didn’t have, because the signs for the merch were in company code that removed all the vowels. PN CRM, for example.
Still no humans visible. I had a horrible thought: they’re all in the backroom cowering while a masked robber holds a shotgun on them. I saw a head a few aisles over. Figured he was the clerk, stocking. Or something. I walked out, noting how many shelves were empty or underpopulated, stood by the door for a few seconds waiting for someone to say something, and then left.
Went to Walgreens. Greeted upon arrival by someone at the counter. Two people working the counter, in fact. Walked back to Pain, past another employee stocking the shelves. Not only was everything stocked, the shelves were backlit so the merchandise glowed. I found what I wanted and went to the counter.
“How are you?” The clerk said.
“It’s Saturday night and I’m buying topical anesthetic,” I said.
Oh, that reminds me: at Lunds I bought a bag of paper bags, and the young fellow doing the bagging asked “Paper or plastic?” I said “It is both. And neither. It is paper in plastic.”
He looked at the object in his hand. “You’re right,” he said.
“So should I put the paper in plastic in paper, or put the paper in plastic in plastic?”
“It’s up to you,” he said.
He was right. It was Saturday night. The world was wide open.
Remember this feature? We never met Bela Lanan himself. We never will.
This was a daily feature, with the solution on Saturday. We'll do it the way they did it then - one entry per day, with the expectation that you'll be following the story.